Being one of the best small forwards in the NBA, LeBron James has recorded more than his fair share of assists on the basketball court. He’s about to start racking up assists off the court too. James plans to open
his new I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. According to James, opening this school was one of the
most important things he has ever done:
'Besides having three kids and marrying my wife, putting my mom in a position where she never has to worry about anything ever again for the rest of her life, this is right up there,' James told media. 'Championships, MVPs, I mean points, rebounds and assists, that stuff [is] whatever. But for me to be able to open up a school and give back to my inner city, so many kids that I know because I was those kids.'
While this move is positive, there are some people in the anti-school choice movement who criticize any “non-traditional” school format. Here are a couple things to put those people’s fears at ease.
It’s still a public school
Unfortunately, I have gotten accustomed to having to say this in regards to charter schools: Charter schools are public schools. This public school just happened to be created in partnership with James’ foundation.
LeBron James has a really good track record
For as maligned as James is in sports media, he has virtually done everything right throughout his career. If you ignore “The Decision” then you essentially have nothing negative to say about him. Even if his TV special rubbed you the wrong way, you have to admit there are very few character issues to worry about with James. He has no criminal record or off-the-court issues whatsoever. He was never even ejected from a game until a couple of weeks ago. If his personal life is any indication, we could expect his school to be on the up and up—which is perhaps the biggest complaint about the non-traditional school models and celebrity “foundations” in general.
Having his name attached to the school matters
Some people dismiss anything celebrities do as tax write-offs or vanity projects. In many cases that may be true. However, given the fact that James is a very public figure with aspirations after he retires from basketball, it stands to reason that he wants this school to do well. Such a powerful ally often comes in handy for an institution. For example, I bet this school won’t have trouble finding money for new technology. I bet they won’t have trouble finding guest speakers on career day. Given James' popularity with the youth, I bet they won’t have problems finding students that want to attend either.
LeBron James’ school is probably not a panacea to completely fix or even overhaul the Akron public school system. However, it is hard for me to imagine how the youth that attend
I Promise wouldn’t benefit from having such a powerful ally. James opening this school is a good idea, and I hope that this encourages other well-off celebrities and sports stars to take a more active role in their own communities. https://www.facebook.com/BetterConversationBetterEducation/videos/735253890006642/
Andrew Pillow is a fifth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Indianapolis, a charter school where he has taught since 2011. He is also a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow and he has taught technology and social issues.